REPORTS & SURVEYS | MAY 20TH, 2013
Based on this research, as well as decades of experience supporting sound public engagement, Public Agenda proposes a number of recommendations for local officials and civic and community-based organizations who seek to improve the public decision-making process by including broad cross sections of the public in meaningful deliberations, as well as for foundations and other supporters interested in funding these efforts.
This research revealed that California’s civic leaders believe there is significant room for improvement in local government officials’ efforts to include the public in their decision making. Most civic leaders expressed a willingness to collaborate with local officials to improve public engagement processes in their communities.
Interestingly, California’s civic leaders’ and local officials’ views, attitudes and ambitions regarding public engagement are more complementary than one might expect. Both groups see major shortcomings in traditional public hearings and comment opportunities, which exclude large sectors of the public. Both groups expressed a keen interest in, and some experience with, more inclusive and deliberative forms of public engagement. About half of local officials and four in ten civic leaders reported having participated in a collaborative effort in the past twelve months that sought meaningful public input on an issue and provided a diverse group of residents with the chance to deliberate on the trade-offs of public decisions. Despite their general interest, many civic leaders and local officials also have some reservations about the benefits and costs of such a process.
Here are a number of recommendations for local officials and for civic and community-based organizations who seek to include broad cross sections of the public in meaningful deliberations, and for funders who want to support these efforts.